ENG 225 – Week 1

Title:  Rounders

Writers:  David Levien, Brian Koppelman

Director:  John Dahl

Year:  1998

Actors:  Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Malkovich, John Turturro

Story:  Rounders is one of my favorite movies.  It is a 1998 film about Mike McDermott – a young, reformed gambler turned legitimate law student.  After is life-long best friend and degenerate gambling buddy “Worm” gets out of prison, Mike is dragged back into the underworld of high-stakes poker in order to save his best friend from the loan sharks who hold a bounty over his head.

Plot:  The film starts out with Mike on top of the world.  At this time, he has paid his way through half of law school by being at the top of his game in Poker.  Not only does he know how to win, but how to win wisely and consistently.  The opening scene shows him walking into an underground poker club ran by Teddy “KGB,” a Russian Mafia affiliate with a dangerous reputation.  Mike shows up with everything he owns; $30,000 worth of savings and future tuition.  He loses his entire bankroll in one single hand of poker.  Devastated, he promises his girlfriend to escape the poker life and gets part-time work driving a delivery truck for a fellow poker player and mentor, Knish.

All is relatively well until Mikes best friend Lester “Worm” Murphy from childhood, school, and past gambling is released from prison.  Mike picks him up from prison and is almost immediately drawn right back into his old life.  Worm has amassed some substantial debt with interest from the wrong people.  He, and what inevitably becomes “They” must team up to generate life-saving cash through a dramatic series of high-stakes poker games.

When Worm gets caught cheating at one of these games, they duo are relentlessly beaten by their opposition and robbed of everything they’ve earned in order to save Worm’s life.  Worm informs Mike that it is Teddy KGB that owns the bounty on his head, and since Mike vouched for Worm, Teddy would just as soon kill Mike to settle the debt.  Worm skips town and leaves Mike high and dry.  After begging for a $10,000 loan from his law professor, Mike has no choice but to sit down with Teddy KGB for another no limit, heads-up game of Texas Hold’em – one last time to pay off all debts, save his life, and maybe even escape with some money in his pockets.

In two very dramatic games, Mike beats Teddy KGB, winning enough money to do just that.  The movie ends with Mike dropping out of law school, saying goodbye to his girlfriend, poker mentor, and professor…and driving off into the sunset, bound for Las Vegas to play in the World Series of Poker Main Event

Chronology:  The film was told in chronological order.  I believe this allows the viewer to follow right along with every single one of Mike’s highs and extreme lows.  Being in this order allows the ending of the movie to leave the viewer extremely satisfied with the personal growth and progress Mike has made along the way, all the lessons he has learned, and the relationships he’s lost or fostered.  You follow from the greatest time in his life, to the absolute worst, until the movie ends with nothing but optimism and hope for Mike’s future.

I think one of the most important aspects of this movie is the character development.  Almost immediately, the audience knows exactly who to root for and why.  Mike is the handsome, loyal, well-spoken and charismatic law student who has it all before he’s humbled by a huge poker loss.  He keeps his nose down and continues to work hard to get through law school.  His buddy Worm on the other hand immediately starts dragging him down and back into the volatile life he has sworn to leave behind.  If this film was portrayed in a non-linear fashion, the character development that pulls you into the movie would have greatly suffered.

 

Reference:

International Movie Database (ND) Rounders. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0128442/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

MG Nostrovista (2012, November 19). Rounders movie trailer. [Video file] Retrieved from https://wwww.youtube.com/watch?v=hZZwW10yTsc

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